So the other night I attended a silent reading party. It is a regular thing up on First Hill, in the Fireside Room of the Sorrento Hotel, and runs the first Wednesday of the month. Usually my Wednesdays are booked with other things, but my tai chi classes don't start until next week. The Stranger always pushes it, talking about soft chairs, soft music, and soft lighting.
My purpose, in part, was to jumpstart a book I've been reading - Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson. It is the story of the birth of D&D and all the games that preceded it, and should I ever finish the tome, will provide a review. It is a good book, but like a lot of books, I have set it down at one point and not picked it up again (I have a number of such orphaned books on my bedside bookshelf, and they merit an article on their own). Playing at the World is a doorstop of a book, richly detailed, and I had ground out at the detailed analysis of hit points descending from the Fletcher Pratt naval rules, and wanted to pick up the book again, but other events and opportunities conspired against it. So my goal was to read without distraction.
Anyway, I got there late, because we were having a good design discussion at the office (why such discussions always break out at 5 PM is a bit of mystery). I arrived and found the Sorrento an older hotel with a smallish restaurant converted entirely to people deeply immersed in books. All seats were taken, most nooks were filled, and crannies were at a premium. Moving among the reading herds, I could feel that vibe of readers wanting to maintain their space (The literate are a kindly people, but possessive of their reading space, including the additional space they are saving for late-arriving friends). I ended up just outside the room, parked at a chess table. A kindly waitress brought me an expensive but completely serviceable glass of reisling, and I hunkered down and set to reading.
And it was OK. Lighting was typical for an older hotel, subdued, which is good for meals and problematic for reading, in particular texts with small print. Music was provided by Will Bielawski on the harp,which was excellent, though when he went into "Ashokan Farewell", also known as "That song from Ken Burns' Civil War", I suddenly was reading the text in Garrison Keilor's voice.
I stayed about an hour, pressed through the section on Fletcher Pratt and the difference between mitigation and endurance in dealing damage in miniature games (and its later effect on D&D), so I consider it to be a success. Would I go again in the future, I would:
a) Arrive earlier
b) Go with a larger printed text, or, better yet, use a back-lit e-reader.
c) Look older so some young child will take pity on me and offer me a better seat.
The idea of a silent reading party looks pretty good, and should some local bar in the Renton/Kent area with a dead Tuesday night decide to pick it up, I would encourage it. As it is, I'm glad I checked it out, but don't really need to return.
Unless, of course, someone saves me a seat.
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